My Spring 2024 Garden Accomplishments

A wonderful spring in the garden: baby birds, fruit harvests, and butterflies

2024 has been an incredible year in my garden because I achieved several goals of mine. These goals include harvesting my own fruit, bringing more pollinators to the garden, and cultivating a space where life can flourish. 

Between the multiple nests of baby birds, the sweet fruit I ate right off the vine, and the butterflies floating around my garden, I have a lot to be proud of. This growing season has reminded me that achieving our goals takes patience and dedication, but the results are worth the hard work.

My delicious fruit harvest of 2024

When I started growing plants in my backyard, I had a lot to learn. My goals were simple: Keep plants alive and help them grow. Each year, my knowledge deepened, and I could set more advanced goals.

As my garden grew and flourished, one goal kept coming to mind: Grow my own fruit! I love fruit. It’s my favorite food group and I felt my garden would be incomplete without some fruit-producing plants. 

This year, I achieved this goal, with harvests from my peach tree, nectarine tree, blueberry bush, and blackberry bush. Additionally, I have grapes and pomegranates ripening. Wow! 

Now, my harvests varied in quantity, but I’m proud of each accomplishment. While I collected dozens of nectarines but only two peaches, eating a peach pulled fresh from the tree will be a highlight of my year. My blueberry harvest totaled to a handful or so, which may not seem like much, but sharing them with friends and family was an opportunity to bond over the sweetness of spring. 

I juiced nectarines as well as ate them whole, and the juice was unexpectedly thick and creamy. 

“I’ve never had nectarine juice,” remarked several of friends who tried it, yet all agreed: It was tasty and luxurious. 

We’ve had a few blackberries here and there, each of them bursting with flavor and rich, purple juice. Again, a few berries might be someone others would scoff at, but for me, they represent years of hard work and the beginning of my garden harvests. Deeply rooted and accustomed to my environment, these plants are set to continue thriving, growing, and producing more fruit. 

The joy of baby birds nesting in the garden

Few things lift my spirits and inspire me more than baby birds in the garden. I am honored that my garden has been home to three nests (that I know of) this year. One of them was right outside of my front door, and the current nest is a few feet away from that one in my camelia bush. I had never seen a baby cardinal up close until this nest!

What a delight it is to visit the little birds everyday. I like to speak to them so they come to know my voice, and feel comfortable around me when we’re in my garden together. One of the most magical experiences I’ve had is sitting down while the baby birds by my door began practicing to fly. I sat on the ground, quiet and still, observing the little creatures with their fluffy feathers hop and swoop from one perch to another, calling to each other and testing their wings. 

After they left the nest, I continued to see them in my garden; all five birds perched on the fence together. I would speak to them the same way I did when they were in the nest so they would recognize me and know I was not a threat. 

Every nest I find shows me that I have created a place where life can thrive, and this to me is a sign of garden success. 

Butterflies & the resilience of nature

In the fall of 2022, I decided I would plant passion vine in my garden to support the butterfly populations and bring them to my garden. There were already several caterpillars on the plant, and I looked upon them with wonder and anticipation of the seasons to come. 

Unfortunately, that plant did not survive the winter, which was something I did not expect because it was a native plant. What disappointment! $70 wasted and I would have to wait until another season for my vision….

But then…

The passion vine began growing out of my raised bed, as well as out of the ground! The plant had not died, but expanded in the earth waiting until the time was right to grow above ground.

And in the spring of 2024, the amount of passion vine to grow back itself after the frosts of winter increased exponentially. The plant is covering the back corner of my fence!

The vines are home to caterpillars and cocoons, and butterflies are regular visitors in my garden!

Everyday I look outside to see them flutter and fly around, and I’m reminded that nature is resilient. One plant can support countless insects and animals, and I smile at the living picture I see through my windows. 

The lessons I’ve learned

The birds, butterflies, and fruit taught me that everything we do matters, and we can have profound effects on those around us. We can make a positive difference if we align our actions with the betterment of ourselves, and our community.

Healing Herbs: Cultivating a Garden of Medicinal Plants

Discussing the benefits and uses of growing your own herbs for health.

If you’re not growing herbs, you’re missing out!

Fragrant, tasty, and beautiful… These are three words that come to mind when I think of herbs

Herbs are some of my favorite plants to grow. They are a delight to the senses and are versatile in their uses. I smell them as I walk through my garden, pick leaves to enhance the dishes I create in my kitchen, dry plant matter for my apothecary, and admire their contributions to my garden. 

I grow them in planters, raised beds, and the ground (depending on the herb), and many grow back year after year. 

One of the best qualities herbs have to offer us is their medicinal benefits. That’s right – the plants we grow can improve our well-being.

Yerba buena, a mint

Healing herbs I grow in my garden

I have always been drawn to plant medicine, but 2021 is the year I decided to expand my herbal understanding and herb garden. Before then, I had a small herb collection: A rosemary, mint, rosebush, lavender, and a few others. I brought some raised beds into my garden and had prime real estate to experiment with, and decided I would use the space for more herbs.

Now, I never miss an herb section when I visit a nursery because I never know what I could find and bring home!

Some of my favorite healing herbs to grow include:

• Mint (specifically peppermint and yerba buena)

• Lemon balm

• Catnip

• Chamomile

• Rosemary

• Tulsi/holy basil

Why do I like these herbs & how do I use them? Great question! I use the mint for its refreshing & uplifting taste, as well as its digestive benefits. Lemon balm is a calming herb that is known to tone the nervous system. While catnip excites cats, it’s a mild sedative for humans! Chamomile is another calming herb, and has supported my family through headaches, stomach aches, and stress. I dry the flowers and store them in glass jars for when I need them. Rosemary has anti-inflammatory benefits, and it’s just tasty! I like to use it freshly picked from the garden. Finally, I grow holy basil because of its unique divine smell, and because it’s an adaptogen – it helps the body regulate stress. 

Roses have a long history as a healing herb

These are only some of the many herbs I grow, and I recommend them to anyone who is interested in growing herbs in their garden. I do caution you to research the plants and where you are growing them, because some plants (like those in the mint family) can spread and take over, while others like holy basil can grow prolifically from seeds after it flowers. 

Although these dried herbs are widely available online, there is something special about growing them myself. I am more connected to my harvest. I respect the plants more because I know the time and energy that went into growing them, and I know exactly how they were grown. Every meal is improved with home grown thyme or rosemary, and a cup of tea with home grown chamomile is bound to be extra healing.

Native herbs growing in your garden

Did you know that many of the “weeds” growing in your garden are native medicinal plants? It can seem like we’re encouraged to remove anything from our gardens that we didn’t plant ourselves, but many (if not most) of those persistent plants that always show up are an important part of our ecosystems. And many of those plants have healing properties, waiting to be put to use. 

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the plants growing in your yard, and there are several ways to go about this. 

1. Look for foraging experts in your area who specialize in the native plants, like Dr. Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen in Texas

2. Look for books written on plants native to your area

3. Use plant identification apps to learn what a plant is, and then research that plant through reputable sources 

Common medicinal plants that grow in my garden include chickweed, cleavers, and dandelion. I wasn’t aware of how much medicine I had in my yard before I began learning about healing plants. 

Before you go chewing on the mysterious plants in your garden, there are a few things to consider:

1. You need to be 110% of your plant identification

2. It’s best not to consume a plant that has been targeted with herbicide

3. You need to ensure you are preparing the plant properly

Do not let your excitement to harness the power of healing plants get in the way of your safety! Many plants have toxic lookalikes, and you must be safe in your consumption.

Dandelion growing in my garden

Plant medicine is our birthright

Plant medicine lost public appeal for several decades in the US, but it’s growing in popularity again. We evolved alongside plants, and have a rich history of using them to promote well-being. At the very least, incorporating the sensory benefits of herbs into your everyday routine is bound to uplift your mood and enhance your life experience. They’ve made a difference for me, and I don’t plan to stop growing or enjoying them anytime soon! 

The Art of Pruning: Letting Go to Grow

A metaphorical look at pruning in the garden and life, focusing on removing what no longer serves us.

What does it mean to prune?

Pruning is “the deliberate removal of tree branches and limbs to achieve the specific objective of altering a tree’s health and form.” It’s often known in the context of trees, but we can apply this same process to other plants. For example, pruning my elephant ears is an annual task of mine to help the plants through the winter and into the next season. I cut away old growth that dies in the cold, so the plant can focus its energy on its roots and grow strongly as the temperatures warm in spring. 

As I pruned my elephant years several winters ago, I was struck with a thought:

We routinely need to prune ourselves to maximize our growth. 

Similar to a plant, our needs change over time. What serves us in one season may hold us back in another. If we aren’t conscious of the changes in our well-being and in our conditions, we may stunt ourselves. 

The art of pruning yourself

Pruning yourself looks different for every person, but the basic principles are the same. When we prune ourselves, we review the different aspects of our life, including our:

• Relationships

• Hobbies 

• Habits

• Routines

We consider how the things in our lives affect us, and we consequently “prune” away what holds us back. We refine our focus so we can concentrate our energy on what will support us in mind, body, and spirit.

There are some aspects of our lives we may not be able to completely cut away, such as work relationships or certain chores, but we can still benefit from the self-evaluation that pruning offers us. Have you ever felt low energy, frustrated, depressed, or unenthused about life without a clear understanding of why? Often, it’s because there is something in our lives that is weighing on us, and sometimes, the thing that weighs on us has been part of our routine for so long that we don’t realize it’s the problem.

If we identify something that is troubling us but we can’t completely remove it from our lives, we can instead adjust how we respond to it and find ways to manage its presence in our life. And, by refining our focus to the things that support us, we can come to be less bothered by the things that stunt us by deciding we won’t let them control our growth. 

My elephant ear coming back in spring

How to prune yourself

So what does it mean to actually get to pruning? It may not be as straightforward as chopping off a tree branch in one swift swing of an ax, but the concept is the same. 

We look at our friendships. Where is our energy going, and from where are we getting energy back? Is there someone in your life who isn’t putting in the same effort to the relationship, and doesn’t seem interested in maintaining it? This could be something to put less energy into, so you can put more energy into the relationships that serve you. 

We look at our hobbies, habits, and routines. It’s easy to get caught up in how the days pass us by, and we stop thinking critically about our regular activities and processes. Are you bored? Are you doing something that is actually inefficient, but you haven’t had the brain power to address it? Do you know something needs to change, but you’ve been putting it off? To prune yourself, you must take the time to make the change you want to see. Say goodbye to the “I’ll do it later” mindset, and do it now so you can grow. 

Journaling is a great tool for you during your pruning process. You might not know exactly what is keeping you from growing, and not know how to begin identifying the points of contention in your life. If you don’t know how to journal, try this. 

A few times a day, jot some notes into your log. This is to collect data, and you can use this data to help with your self-evaluation. 

Then you can use what you learn from the self-evaluation to do your pruning!

We can see here where a tree branch was pruned

A personal experience with pruning

It can be challenging to prune yourself. I think of times in my life when I realized I had to separate myself from friends of several years. It became clear they were in the way of my growth, despite how hard I tried to grow with them. After being disrespected and undervalued with no change in sight, I had to stop putting energy where it wasn’t appreciated. 

Years later, I know I made the right decision because I began to grow in new ways, and learned the important lesson of pruning away old growth for the new to prosper.